Napoleon Bonaparte Hughes

Napoleon Bonaparte HughesNapoleon was born September 15, 1843 in Putman Township, Livingston County, Michigan. He was one of 15 children born to Enick (Enoch) Hughes and Hannah Burning Hughes.

On December 2, 1863 Napoleon enlisted in the Union Army as a Private in Company F Engineers and Mechanics Regiment, his tour of duty was done in places such as North Carolina, South Carolina, and Alexandria, Virginia. He also marched from Atlanta to Savannah, Georgia and then to Chattanooga, Tennessee. In the months around July 1864, he was in a place called Buzzard’s Roost, Georgia where he built brick houses. While there he developed some serious health issues from the heavy lifting and the hot humid weather. He never recovered from the problems and they plagued him the rest of his life. Napoleon mustered out the Army on September 22, 1865 in Nashville, Tennessee. Napoleon returned to Michigan, there he married Lettie Maria Doolittle on March 8, 1866 in Wayne County, Michigan. They moved to a farm on Hughes Lake Road in Oscoda County where they raised five children. Napoleon was a farmer and according to pension records and interviews on them from his neighbors, he worked as hard as his body would let him. To supplement his income to support himself and his family he made willow baskets. (I would love to see one of those)

Napoleon fought the United States Government from 1889 until the time of his death in 1911 for benefits because of his lasting ailments and his inability to work a full day. Reading over the military records and correspondence many said he was only able to work 1/3 of what a man should be able to do. The confusion of his mailing address being Damon, Ogemaw County, Michigan and his home being in Oscoda County caused major problems with this claim and took about two years to clear up.

Lettie passed away on June 12, 1908 and is buried on Hughes Lake Road next to Napoleon.

In researching this man, I found a newspaper article in the Muskegon Chronicle dated February 1, 1911. It says “Would trade Farm for Wife” Rose City Michigan Feb 1….Napoleon B. Hughes living about 11 miles out on the plains created somewhat of a sensation here by sending an ad to the Detroit papers in which he offered to trade a 40 acre farm for a “good wife”.

Napoleon passed away August 17, 1911 and is buried on a portion of the family farm on Hughes Lake Road, Oscoda County, Michigan. In 1987 with the help of the Rose City Area Historical Society the remaining relatives were able to place a headstone on his grave.

I have been intrigued by this man and his history since I stumbled across his grave on a slow ramble on the back roads. I became even more interested after a forest fire several years ago burned all the trees and grasses around his grave and jumped the road but left the wooden white cross and the small American flag untouched. It was as if something or someone had covered his and Lettie’s graves and kept them from harm.

There are still some relatives of this man in the area and I am sure they have some wonderful stories to tell.

By Cathy Snider  President. Rose City Area Historical Society


2 Responses to Napoleon Bonaparte Hughes

  • LuAnn Zettle says:

    I just read your story about Napoleon Hughes and loved it. You did a fine job.
    Have a Happy New Year.

  • Doug Sim says:

    Enjoyed reading this story, of special interest to me as he is my great grandfather! His son Eugene Melvin Hughes was my grandfather. My mother, Helen was Eugene’s daughter. Never heard this story, very interesting!
    Thank You
    Doug Sim

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